Mental_flossing South Africa
13 December 2002
Things South African crop up where you least expect them. mental_floss, a funky, fast-growing US magazine described variously as “a Reader’s Digest for the 21st century” and a “sort of Idiot’s Guide to Knowledge”, celebrates its first anniversary with a special “Myths and Myth-conceptions” issue - featuring no less than four articles on South Africa.
Founded a year ago by a bunch of university students who saw a gap in the market for an “educational magazine that would teach people what they didn't get a chance to learn in school”, mental_floss has jumped to a circulation of 45 000, gone from a quarterly to a bimonthly, and was recently named one of the 10 best new magazines by the Library Journal, America's oldest independent library publication.
The anniversary "Lies Your Mother Told You" issue is crammed with stuff designed to make you “feel smart again”, including “How the Bicycle Emancipated Women”, “Four Terrifying Theories in
Astronomy”, “The Story of Graffiti” and “The Greatest Moments in Ancient Science”.
And while you’re working on your mental hygiene, you can brush up on your knowledge of the southernmost tip of Africa. “Eat, Drink and End Scurvy” will teach South Africans themselves a thing or two about the history of wine cultivation in the country. As the blurb for Valerie Yeager’s article runs, “mental_floss will always be around to cleanse your mind, but where are you going to turn when you need to cleanse your palate?
“May we recommend South Africa? Not only are the wines garnering major acclaim on international circuits, but they have a pretty rich history, too. How can you argue with wines that have graced the tables of Napoleon, Bismarck and Frederick the Great? Or wines that have beaten off bouts of scurvy?”
Next up, mental_floss posts advance warning to US music fans in Simone Swink’s Kwaito: how Africa does
“You can read Source magazine all you want for information on the newest hip hop beats, but the next big thing may be sneaking up behind you from South Africa. There, as the post-apartheid fog is lifting, the youth culture is finding its own voice in a style of music known as kwaito and spawning a new (and profitable) industry.”
Then there’s “Jason Carter Speaks Out”, an interview with the grandson of former US President and Nobel Peace Laureate Jimmy Carter following a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in the tiny rural village of Lochiel in Mpumalanga. Discussing his experiences of living in one of South Africa’s poorest communities – the subject of his new book, Power Lines – Carter tells mental_floss:
“I’m not sure what keeps them going. But there is this sense of community called ubuntu [which] they clearly draw from as a reservoir for resilience and support … Ubuntu is the idea that people are fundamentally connected rather than
fundamentally individual. That’s a drastic difference from the way we view things in the United States and in the Western world in general … There’s no pity when someone says, 'My family doesn’t have enough food to eat'. Everyone in the community just finds some food for them.
mental_floss wraps up its South Africa coverage with a collection of “20-30 Things You Might Not Know About the Republic of South Africa”, ranging from the geographical to the political to the zoological (taster:
“Whatever your land mammal fancy, South Africa can meet your needs. From the tallest (the giraffe) to the smallest (the pygmy shrew) to the biggest (the African elephant) to the fastest (the cheetah), the nation’s got it covered.”)
“South Africa has so much to teach everyone. The resilience and hopefulness, not to mention the racial issues they are dealing with, and the manner in which they have begun to put apartheid behind them - it has applications all over the world. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the spirit of ubuntu, has profound parallels in the United States and the rest of the world. South Africa, fundamentally, is a leader on a variety of levels, and I think we should be paying attention.”
The magazine is available worldwide at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Waldenbooks. Subscriptions and individual issues may also be ordered through the magazine's web site - which also features daily facts and quizzes to both entertain and educate.
How's your mental hygiene?|
mental_floss is available worldwide at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Waldenbooks. Subscriptions and individual issues may also be ordered through the magazine's web site - which also features daily facts and quizzes to both entertain and educate.
Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa's Borders
South Africa features
Enter a South Africa few outsiders see ... in his memoir of two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, Jason Carter paints a portrait at once heartbreaking and hopeful of a beautiful and rich country, its turbulent history, its colourful customs, and the people
he came to teach - and ended up being taught by.
The cradle of humankind, the first African in space, the famous 'fossil fish' ... catch our feature story archive and take a new angle on SA!